Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be evaluating talent instead of going into full acquisition mode. Manager Dale Sveum won’t be feeling the heat until the games actually matter.

Alfonso Soriano – who wasn’t interested in playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic – won’t have much to prove while getting his 37-year-old body ready for the season.

While snow still covered the ground in Chicago on Wednesday, the countdown had already begun. Less than a week remains until pitchers and catchers have their first official workout in Arizona; 11 days until the first full-squad workout; and less than two months until Opening Day – April Fool’s Day – in Pittsburgh.

These aren’t necessarily the biggest names or the most valuable players – if those even exist after a 101-loss season – but here are the 10 most interesting figures you’ll find in Mesa:

Matt Garza

The baseball world will be watching to see how his right elbow responds – the direction of this Cubs season and the pennant races could hinge upon it.

If everything goes south and the front office looks to sell off parts to contenders again, well, remember this is the guy who once insisted the Cubs were “right where we need to be” after a comeback win in Washington left them 17 games under .500 in July 2011. This is an optimist.

“I don’t even look for that,” Garza said. “Right now, we’re sitting at the top of the pole, so we’re ready to go. It’s zero-zero all the way across the board. So let’s get it done and let’s not have it come to that.”

Javier Baez

This isn’t a quarterback controversy. Starlin Castro is the franchise shortstop and Baez hasn’t even played a full season of professional baseball yet. But the Cubs will want to see how he handles himself in big-league camp, at the age of 20 and with his name popping up on the top prospects lists.

“You don’t move a guy off of shortstop or out of center field until you absolutely have to,” Hoyer said. “Why would we not develop a guy that can really play shortstop at shortstop? He’s got some offensive work to do, too. If it was a finishing piece to come up to the big leagues, maybe you’d think about moving positions, but right now we’re focused on improving his whole game.”